by Robert McKay
In a conversation with Rudolf Steiner that took place in April 1922 in The Hague, Walter Johannes Stein asked Rudolf Steiner, “What will remain of your work in thousands of years? Rudolf Steiner replied: “Nothing but The Philosophy of Freedom,” and then added: “But everything is contained in it. If someone realizes the act of freedom described there, he finds the whole content of Anthroposophy”.1
This is a fascinating statement and open to various interpretations. Will humanity lose the great treasure that is anthroposophy over the next thousand years? I doubt it. I suspect that Steiner was addressing what of his work will be an enduring contribution. I imagine that in a thousand years, there will be many initiates working on the earth and that their collective creativity will, as is the case in all true arenas of knowledge, have incorporated and surpassed what a pioneer, like Steiner, achieved in his day. If this picture is correct, why would The Philosophy of Freedom still be relevant in a thousand years? Why is it a book for the future?
I suspect the answer has to do with the fact that the book is an essential tool and that its design cannot be improved upon. It will be as useful to seekers working in a thousand years as it is now. What is the core function of this essential tool? What can happen when a person sets to work with The Philosophy of Freedom? Steiner spoke about this frequently. Consider for example the following quote from the lecture given to the workers at the Goetheanum on June 28, 1923:
It is not the contents of this book that are so important, although obviously at that time one wished to tell the world what was said in it, but the most important thing is that independent thinking appeared in this book for the first time. No-one can possibly understand this book who does not think independently. From the beginning, page by page, a reader must become accustomed to using his etheric body if he would think these thoughts at all. Hence this book is a means of education - a very important means - and must be taken up as such.2
As other quotes from Steiner make clear, all of anthroposophy is grounded in this capacity for independent thinking, this “act of freedom”. These indications make it clear that only by developing the power of such independent thinking, can the soul become strong enough to open to spiritual experiences in a wholesome way. In addition, only through such thinking can a bridge be formed that is strong enough to bring the great richness of spiritual experiences back over into the day-to-day, as required for the renewal of our civilization.
What does this mean using our etheric body in independent thinking? How does that experience differ from thinking that does not use our etheric? How can we experience this difference? If these questions interest you, come to the Freedom Mystery Conference to be held in Thornhill from October 23 to 25.
At the heart of this conference is the immensely creative work of Timothy Nadelle. Out of a deep encounter over many years with The Philosophy of Freedom, Tim has developed – in fact is developing – an experiential and social way of working with the content of this book that lead one directly into this new thinking. For this development process to continue, Tim needs colleagues to receive and work with what he has achieved in an open and honest way. As a member of the organizing team, I have seen first hand what Tim is bringing and it is extraordinary. Rather than a didactic approach, Tim brings an opportunity that conference participants can pick up and work with creatively. Whether you have made a deep study of The Philosophy of Freedom or are new to this terrain, you will be guided into experiences that will become personally meaningful and open up new pathways for fresh exploration.
To the best of my knowledge there has never been a conference like this one. It truly is breaking new ground. In addition to what will be an energizing encounter with the core of The Philosophy of Freedom, interwoven into the conference, TQuest Productions of Toronto will perform the first third of the Portal of Initiation. Accompanying us on this journey, Christian Community Priest Daniel Hafner will open and close the conference with lectures which are intended to awaken a spiritual dialogue between these two facets of anthroposophy. For those of you who know Daniel, he brings sparking insight and humour to his talks, and can often evoke a special mood through his lively presentations.
A guiding imagination for the conference is that participants will find in the Portal of Initiation a path to freedom and in The Philosophy of Freedom a point of entry into the experience of the mystery drama which is at the foundation of every individual’s life. Learning to think independently is after all the first step in taking your own destiny in hand. I hope you will join us at this special event. For many, I believe it will be a destiny event. For more information or to register, please see www.philosophyfreedom.ca
1. As quoted in May Human Beings Hear It! by Sergei O. Prokofieff – see page 460
2. “The Development of Independent Thinking” a lecture given to the Workers at the Goetheanum on 28 June, 1923(GA 350)